For Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer the opportunity to return to his seat at Clallam County District Court II is not going backwards in his career but getting back to spending more time in the area he calls home.
On Wednesday, Rohrer told members of the Forks Chamber of Commerce that since the opportunity arose with current District Court II Judge John Doherty not seeking re-election and the recent retirement of his wife Cari, from the Quillayute Valley School District, he made the decision to run.
In 1983 Rohrer began working as a law clerk, he graduated law school from Willamette University, Salem, Oregon in 1985 and in 1986 began working at private law firms. In 1990 he began working at the Washington State Attorney’s office and a year later opened the Port Angeles Attorney General’s office.
Rohrer was appointed to the position of District Court II judge in Forks in 2001, elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and again in 2010. In 2012 he decided to seek the position as Clallam County Superior court judge, and was elected, leaving his District II seat early. Rohrer was elected again to Superior Court in 2016. He currently is the Presiding Judge for Superior court.
While Rohrer presided over District Court II for 12 years he fondly remembered working with a wide variety of people and making a number of improvements.
“I saw how prisoners were brought out from Port Angeles, making things more dangerous as well as expensive,” Rohrer said. To eliminate that practice Rohrer implemented video conferencing. Rohrer also set up a system whereby if a motorist for example from out of the area was ticketed they did not have to drive back to Forks to court, those tickets can now be resolved via an online system.
But what he is most proud of is keeping District Court II open. Several time while Rohrer was judge in Forks the county looked to cut spending by closing or moving the court out of Forks City Hall. One option he recalled was moving the court to the lunchroom at the County Sheriff’s compound that is located 5 miles north of Forks.
Rohrer said, “My court clerk, Sabrina Bees, and I went to take a look at the space, it was the size of a closet, we fought that effort hard.” The court did not move and did not close at that time and although the closing of the Forks Court has not been brought up again recently, Rohrer said, “Somebody wants to close our court, people in Forks need a court, if elected I would fight those efforts again.”
“My interest is keeping a court here, I am proud of keeping it from closing down.”
Since his time at Superior Court Rohrer has implemented the video conferencing feature at the County Courthouse. Rohrer said prior to using video the defendants were brought from the basement and through offices to get to the courtroom. “The system is much safer now,” Rohrer said.
As the superior court presiding judge Rohrer has additional responsibilities: speaking with reporters, budget negotiations and seeing that the court is adequately funded.
Rohrer shared that as a judge he prefers to focus on the victim instead of the defendant. He also shared that sometimes he is labeled as a “liberal judge” saying he doesn’t see it that way.
“People want to see serious sentences.” Rohrer said his sentences are done within the Superior Court guidelines, adding, “Many times those sentences are later overturned.”
Rohrer spoke about the counties drug court as a win-win. “I see weeping families in drug court, people choose drug court because they want to avoid prison, but when they make it through it is an intense experience.” Rohrer has been the judge for adult drug court for three years and for juvenile drug court for a year before that.
During the time Rohrer was District II judge he was an active community member and volunteer. He spent seven years on the Forks Chamber Board and two years as president. While president he helped add some of the web cams that are viewed by many on the Chambers website as well as update the website in anticipation of the Twilight phenomenon. Rohrer was also instrumental in the design and sale of Twilight shirts. Those shirts raised funds which are now used each year for two $1,000 scholarships given to Forks High School graduates. One of the Scholarships is named after Rohrer.
Rohrer is also past president of the Forks Hospital Foundation, and the Pacific Northwest Trail Association. He is the past Chair and current member of the Peninsula College Board of Trustees.
The Rohrers have lived near Sappho since 2001. Both are volunteer maintainers of a west end portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail, which is near their home. Rohrer said, “I am trying to get back here, I have decided I just want to work closer to where I live.”